City’s millage rate holds steady

The City of LaBelle’s economic picture seems to continue its upward trend, at least as it is reflected in a preview of the city’s 2017-18 taxes.

City commissioners set the tentative millage rate for next year at its current rate – 3.6066 – a rate that has held steady since 2015-16.

However, work is not complete on the 2017-18 budget and the commisson will continue to hone the numbers until the final budget is due in September. Both the city and county’s new fiscal years begin October 1. The city will hold special meetings on Thursdays, September 14 and 28 to pass the new budget. Both meetings are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

On July 13 City of LaBelle’s Director of Finance Ron Zimmerly walked the board members through the preliminary numbers.
Mr. Zimmerly showed that the city’s total revenue for 2017-18 will be $4,880,575.That figure is up somewhat from $3,941,328 last year. That increase is expected to come from ad valorem taxes, some special assessments, state revenue sharing and gas taxes.

Mr. Zimmerly said he is proud of the steady improvement the city has made through recent years. He recalled that he had predicted a slow recovery for LaBelle because of its rural nature, and added that the city is “ecstatic” over its slow but steady progress through the years.

Perhaps the biggest news comes from the Fire Department, showing $1,405,445 in “expenses” for next year.

Of that, almost a million dollars – $843,000 – has been provided to LaBelle Fire Department in state appropriations for this coming year. The appropriations were requested by the city and the efforts of city lobbyist Joe Spratt and Senator Denise Grimsley are to be commended in helping securing them, Mr. Zimmerly said.

One hundred thousand dollars of this additional funding is earmarked for new equipment; $425,000 to replace a 1999 Class A pumper; and $318,000 for station renovations including an additional bay, storage, an improved laundry facility and other needed items.

Fire Chief Josh Rimes is also seeking permission to add a volunteer to man the fire station eight hours a day Monday through Friday. The volunteer would receive a stipend of $80 per day. In return, the extra manpower would make three firefighters available during the week, potentially reducing response times.

The Recreation Department assessments are expected to be $220,938 and the Sheriff’s Office contract with the city is $255,000.

In other business:
The city will continue its annual $25,000 contribution to Barron Library. At the July 13 meeting, the board also briefly discussed an easement agreement that has yet to be executed between the library and Florida Power & Light. The agreement will move power lines in the vicinity of the library underground. Mr. Zimmerly said he is working to make the agreement happen.

The board also unanimously approved moving both Mr. Zimmerly and Superintendent of Public Works Michael Boyle to the administrative category. The move will add a minimal amount to the city’s budget but will provide better retirement package for them when the time comes. It was noted that the city’s finances have improved every year under Mr. Zimmerly’s guidance and the board recognized Mr. Boyle’s contributions to the city as well.

Patty Brant, can be reached at

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